‘For Colored Girls’ tells difficult but important stories

IX Art Park hosts Paul Robeson Players’ latest performance

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Paul Robeson Players' "For Colored Girls" was a series of moving, racial vignettes.

Courtesy The Paul Robeson Players

IX Art Park hosted Friday night the Paul Robeson Players’ performance, “For Colored Girls.” The crowd consisted of people of all ages and backgrounds, and the performance was presented to the audience as “a toast for colored girls who’ve considered suicide.”

In the pamphlet given to audience members, the characters of the cast remained without name. Instead, all cast members were referred to by the colors of their clothing. Perhaps the point was to universalize the stories they would go on to tell — these were trials familiar to all women of color. The show began with each cast member toasting to a great night. However, the joy of the toast quickly unraveled as a series of chronological vignettes uncovered the darkness each character had bubbling underneath.

“Graduation Night” was a story romanticizing the night one character lost her virginity and chronicling the joy of feeling finally grown. Other stories featured characters’ past infatuations with different cultures. One such story, “Now I Love Somebody More Than Sechita,” told how one character’s Egyptian goddess alter ego contributed in dismantling misogyny. In “Toussaint,” one character told a story about falling in love with Toussaint Louverture, the 18th century Haitian revolutionary, at the age of eight. These stories were stunning portrayals of reclaiming identity and autonomy through the body, despite living in an often constricting society. As one character put it, to live as a colored woman is “resistance in itself.”

However, these stories of bodily reprisal did not always entail liberation. The whole show highlighted different consequences of this type of personal rebellion. Sometimes the characters hurt others, and sometimes they hurt themselves. The characters continually grappled with alienation in this way, trying not to become someone they weren’t, someone who was “ordinary.” Each of the “No More Love Poems” scenes shed light on the constant inner turmoil a woman of color faces when her feelings are often disabused.

“I couldn’t stand being colored,” one character said. “And feeling sorry at the same time. It’s just so redundant in the modern world.”

The show closed with the cast members reciting in unison the completion of the show’s opening thesis, saying, “this is for colored girls who’ve considered suicide, but are moving toward the ends of their own rainbows.” One character called living as a woman of color a metaphysical dilemma. After watching the entirety of the performance, no audience member could disagree. The cast’s performances were frenzied, perfectly illustrating the anxious feeling of each story. 

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